Eurobasket 2015 newcomers Iceland have not had a particularly kind draw to begin life amongst Europe’s elite, but they will relish every second they will get next summer.
The Nordic side will travel to the German capital of Berlin to face Spain, Serbia, Turkey, Italy and hosts Germany. All teams have European and world pedigree but Iceland aren’t sweating it.
“We are in a very strong group together with five teams that might be in the top eight,” commented Iceland head coach Craig Pedersen. “It’s going to be tough, but then it’s exciting to play against the best teams. It will be interesting to see how we match up against them.
“We are are theoretically the weakest team at the beginning of the competition, but we are accustomed to that. We will not let it affect us more than it has done in the past.”
Not many people expected Iceland to get past the qualifying rounds but they secured second spot in the second qualifying round by beating Great Britain twice and hanging with Bosnia & Herzegovina before narrowly losing both games.
The 2-2 record overall though was enough to seal their place.
“This is certainly a tricky group but at the same time it will be fun,” Icelandic Basketball Federation (KKI) chairman and FIBA Europe Small Countries’ Commission Hannes S. Jonsson
“We are looking forward to this challenge at the Federation and I know that the players are too.”
Regardless of how their campaign pans out in Berlin next September, Iceland’s mere presence in the big tournament is an achievement of historical proportions for basketball in the country.
“Basketball is a huge sport in Iceland and us qualifying for EuroBasket has generated even more attention,” Pedersen explained.
“Hopefully we will grow even more from that but, like I said, it’s a huge thing and I hope we can make a good show [in Berlin].”
Photo: Mansoor Ahmed/MAP Photos